Disaster Medicine in Medical Education: the investment you just can´t afford to ignore

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mrs Moa M Herrgård and Ms Marie My Warborg Larsen, medical university students in Stockholm and Copenhagen respectively. Both students are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA).

moa-m-herrgard

Moa M Herrgård is a medical student from Stockholm, affiliated to IFMSA (IFMSA, 2016).

Over the last century, the number of disasters has remarkably increased, as have the number of affected civilians. The economic impact is beyond what the global financial market can manage. In parallel to this, we have an inflation of the humanitarian needs. The big question is if we have the resources to enhance the humanitarian aid in order to meet the needs. That question never reached a conclusion with consensus, due to the endless debate between the advocates of the importance of economic versus social development. The nexus approach of the three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – endorsed by the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development 2015-2030, seems to be forgotten.

 

The Solution to Meet the Humanitarian Needs

Margaret Whalström, the former United Nation Secretary General Special Representative to the International Strategy on Disaster Risk Reduction, said “No one is immune to disasters. Investments in disaster risk reduction is an investment no one can afford not to make.” Investment of 1 USD in disaster prevention and preparedness reduce the humanitarian appeal for disaster response with 7 USD. Building capacity of resilience in the community by early warning system, reduce the risk for war by peace- consultations in fragile states, education of social service personnel to deliver their duties in with limited resources, these are all actions of disaster risk reduction which with limited means of investment can have long term impact on the communities and countries social and economic development. Despite this, only 3% of the humanitarian budget are used for disaster prevention and preparedness.

Health Care Systems Disaster Resilience

A number of studies point to the lack of adequate training in the medical management of disaster response – a deficiency that has become dramatically apparent in the recent past. In every major emergency there are still significant numbers of aid personnel who lack some of essential skills. We need to develop the capacity of health workers in understanding disaster risk and gain the skills to respond to striking hazards. This will strengthening health systems and making them resilient in front of disasters.

Disaster Medicine in the Medical Education

The topic is though poorly represented in medical curriculum, especially in countries that are stricken by disasters. The International Federation for Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) have with support of amongst others CRIMEDIM taken the matter into their own hands. During the last  three years medical students have led and manage the delivery of expert and peer-to-peer trainings around the world. The moment and the interest is increasing, but in order to reach long term change we need the political leaders to recognise the need of DRR and the importance of equipped medical personnel to manage disasters. This is an investment they just can’t afford not to make.

About the authors

Moa M Herrgård, is a first year law student and third year medical student at Stockholm respectively Lund University. Her UnIversity Bachelor Research was a quantity field study monitoring the degree of mental health amongst Syrian refugee children, escaping Syria maximum six months before.  She carried out an internship at World Health Organisation headquarter, department Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response.

Marie My Warborg Larsen, is a fourth year public health student at Copenhagen University. She wrote her University Bachelor thesis in Copenhagen Center of disaster Research on the association between diarrhea and water quality. 

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